For some time now, someone has been hunting and capturing Spider-Man's many and sundry villains! That person was Kraven, who now approaches X-villain and ne'er-do-well-for-hire Arcade, who's having his own problems after the last arc's J. Jonah Jameson-related debacle. Kraven, though, has an offer...
The scene then shifts to Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, on a dinner date with Curt Conners and his wife and son. This very unique dinner, though, is taking place in a sewer, where Conners is retaining his own personality in Lizard form while he lives with the clones of the wife and son he killed and ate and then resurrected using cloning technology mixed with his own lizard DNA, which resulted in them having human/lizard hybrid appearances (comics, folks!).
Later, Conner confides to Peter and MJ that he only keeps up his reptilian appearance around his wife and son to make them feel less ill-at-ease with their own scaly looks. He also makes Peter an offer to join him teaching at the college level, which Peter remains hesitant about.
We then catch up with Aunt May, who is having lunch with her late husband Jay's lawyer. No sooner do they start talking about his estate, though, when the lawyer puts the moves on May!
May is pretty quick to his scheme, though, and things play out about as any reader might expect. It doesn't take long, though, before the Rhino "politely" and randomly charges his way through the restaurant!
But Spider-Man is nearby, and intervenes. Things get even more out of hand, though, when Taskmaster and the Black Ant arrive, intent on capturing Rhino and bringing him to Kraven alongside all their other captives!
There is a lot to unpack in this issue. After three issues of zeroing his focus in on J. Jonah Jameson, writer Nick Spencer decides to air out the story and bring a whole lot of different plot threads together at once. The result is a little chaotic, but mostly works.
Considering how many various subplots are being juggled in this issue, Spencer does a nice job keeping everything in balance. My biggest nitpick in that regard is that the “checking in on the Lizardses” scene was a little out of nowhere, but its appearance alone infers that Spencer has plans for them down the line. It’s fine to plant seeds for future stories – god knows Chris Claremont made a 15-year career out of it on Uncanny X-Men – but when it distracts from the main story rather than feels like a tantalizing mystery, the technique isn’t quite being deployed right. On the other hand, if the scene’s purpose is merely to serve as a framing device for Peter and MJ to be out and about so they can be in the vicinity of the Rhino’s attack (which also coincidentally puts Aunt May in the mix), it’s so oddly specific that it feels distracting. I also find it… off that MJ is so comfortable having dinner with a bunch of lizard people in the sewers.
Truthfully, though, the inclusion of that scene is easily the weakest point of the issue. The sequence with Aunt May and the lecherous lawyer played out excellently, and then turned into an opportunity for May to show her compassion when, after leaving the restaurant, she ran off some jerks trying to pay a homeless man to participate in a bum fight and then invited the man back inside to eat a nice, warm meal. The scene does go for a little too long, but the fact that Spencer chose to take a page let the homeless man tell May – and by extension the reader – about himself shows that this man may have a role to play in the future. Or am I reading too much into it? Time will tell. Regardless, the scene is a great means of showcasing May’s compassion.
Spider-Man’s interaction with the Rhino is written to show the parallels between Peter and his Aunt May: they’re both trusting, and have fundamentally good, compassionate hearts. It’s clear that Spidey and Rhino have history, and generally find themselves in opposition to one another, but also have grudging respect. When Rhino explains to Spidey that he’s on the run from Taskmaster and Black Ant, Spidey doesn’t hesitate to believe him, because that’s who he is – and, to hammer home on the issue’s overarching theme of family, that’s who May taught him to be. (And also because his spider-sense wasn’t tingling, but that’s beside the point!)
We ultimately don’t learn anything about Kraven’s long-simmering plan to kidnap Spider-foes near and far this issue, and functionally as far as that subplot is concerned, it serves more as a prologue that gets all the players in place rather than a true opening volley of a fresh arc. But it’s a lively outing with strong and relatable themes, and has one heck of a cliffhanger.
Frankly, the issue’s biggest liability is the four, count ’em FOUR inkers tackling Chris Bachalo’s pencils. It gives his normally fluid work an oddly disjointed look throughout, with certain pages having a “crispness” to the linework that I’d normally associate with something inked by Art Thibert. And then there’s the elephant in the room as far as Bachalo is concerned – his very unique and singular style is simply not going to be liked by some fans. I do take some issue with the way he draws Peter in a couple of panels to look like he’s maybe fourteen, but it’s a one-off occurrence. The remainder of the issue, Peter looks like himself.
After the last couple of issues lacked luster, Nick Spencer is eagerly moving into the next major story for Amazing Spider-Man. This issue highlighted Spencer's talent for character work, and despite some minor quibbles, was an overall solid book.
Amazing Spider-Man #14 (LGY #815): Rhinos and Lizards and Kraven, Oh My!
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 6/106/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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